Noma-inspired restaurant to open in Tokyo

Tokyo's Inua is started by German-born Thomas Frebel, who led development at Copenhagen's Noma (left).
Tokyo's Inua is started by German-born Thomas Frebel, who led development at Copenhagen's Noma (above).PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TOKYO • No time or too costly to travel all the way to Copenhagen, Denmark, to dine at acclaimed restaurant Noma?

Singaporean foodies now have another option closer to home, with the man who led research and development at Noma opening a new place in Tokyo with a little help from his Danish friends.

German-born Thomas Frebel will serve Nordic-influenced dishes with Japanese ingredients when he opens Inua on June 29, three years after Noma staged a wildly successful pop-up restaurant in the Japanese capital.

Bookings for Inua have started.

Noma is huge in Japan. When the pop-up opened at the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo for five weeks in 2015, the waiting list was 60,000 names long.

Noma head chef Rene Redzepi is expected to visit Inua a few times each year to help out, though he does not have an ownership stake.

While Inua is not an exact version of Noma, the association with Redzepi is likely to sprinkle a little magic over the new restaurant.

Frebel worked alongside Redzepi developing the menu in Denmark and helped with Noma "residencies" in Japan, Australia and Mexico. In all, he worked at the restaurant for a decade.

"When I was here with Noma, I felt this strong connection with Japan," Frebel said.

"I was drawn to the landscape, culture and ingredients. When we left, I felt a sense of not being finished with my time in Japan."

Dishes at Inua might include food such as bananas from Okinawa with roasted kombu from Rishiri island, or baked octopus from Hokkaido and native almonds, said Mr Peter Kreiner, chief executive of Noma.

The latter is on the Inua board and has been in Tokyo for the past month.

"Frebel will develop his own style," Mr Kreiner added. "There is a lot of Noma in him and also a bit of Thomas Frebel in Noma."

Hundreds of chefs have passed through Noma since it opened on the waterside in Copenhagen in November 2003.

Many have gone on to open their own celebrated restaurants, including James Knappett (Kitchen Table in London) and Rosio Sanchez (Sanchez in Copenhagen).

And, of course, there are the commercial ventures outside the kitchen. When Noma shut down and reopened in a new location in Copenhagen this year, it auctioned off its old stuff, everything from plates and bread baskets to tables and chairs.

Even Redzepi's wife, Nadine Levy, has put out her own cookbook.

Noma has prompted chefs around the world to start foraging in the wild for interesting ingredients to create modern interpretations of their country's culinary traditions.

Even the service style was trail-blazing at Noma, which has won the World's Best Restaurant title four times, generating enormous publicity. 

Now, individual chefs habitually come out of the kitchen and serve their dishes directly rather than just handing them over to the waiters.

Inua is also supported by Kadokawa, a Tokyo-based publishing company, according to the restaurant, though the extent or nature of the tie-up was not clear.

Inua, which originates from Inuit mythology, means "the spirit that exists in all living things".

If you are heading to Japan, here is the restaurant's location - 9F Fujimi Building, 2-13-12 Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 102-0071.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2018, with the headline 'Noma-inspired restaurant to open in Tokyo'. Print Edition | Subscribe